Best Spot for Sunset
Evenings in Hoi An feel magical. Colourful lanterns light up the streets giving the houses a charming, whimsical glow. Many visitors book special evening tours to be in town just for sunset, when the reflected sun turns the river into a sea of gold. The best spot to savour the sunset is from the Bridge of Lights or one of the other bridges crossing further up or down the Tu Bon River, especially if you want to get away from the crowds. And crowded it gets, be prepared to fight yourself through throngs of visitors and street vendors, especially in the popular parts of the Old Town of Hoi An, around the Japanese Covered Bridge and the main riverside.
Where to Have Dinner in Hoi An
After the torrential rain on our first afternoon in Hoi An had largely cleared we wandered back into the old historical part for dinner and a plan to visit the night market on An Hoi Island. There are many restaurants and eateries throughout Hoi An’s Old Town and also over the bridge on An Hoi Island. Deciding on what and where to eat can be quiet exhausting. Popular places get busy early on but the food stalls on the river embankment are always a cheap and quick option for local dishes with a view.
Indian Cuisine at Babas Kitchen
Having had banh mi for late lunch we chose to go for Indian cuisine at Babas Kitchen that evening. The dishes tasted very much like any good Indian back home in London and Jerome was happy to eat something else besides the usual Vietnamese fare, the complimentary starters and dessert were a welcome extra. On our stay in the city besides the Indian we had Banh Mi at our favourite stall one evening and a delicious, local tasting platter at Quan Dau Bac among Hoi An’s younger residents on another.
The Bridge of Lights
Once we left the restaurant it was pitch dark outside and the rain was not as persistent as earlier but it still kept on drizzling on and off all night. This did not deter us from wandering towards the Bridge of Lights that connect the Old Town with An Hoi Island. When we reached the river, we saw the yellow and red lights of the bridge reflecting in the water and masses of people shuffling along the narrow paths and across the bridge.
Lighting Floating Candles
One of the main tourist attractions is a boat tour by night accompanied with the lighting of floating candles. Children and adults alike would surely enjoy the ride, I am sure it must be quite magical to see the rows of charming houses and shops with their colourful lanterns from the water. We did not feel like getting into a boat like many other couples and families. Instead we purchased two candles from an old lady and looked for a spot where we could set them onto the water. Jerome and I climbed down a rickety wooden ladder and walked down a walkway where we let them float.
An Increasing Rubbish Problem
It was a truly a breathtaking sight to see the countless little candles glowing on the river. Sadly most seemed to collect at the river’s edge and the remnants could be seen during daytime, although some industrious locals did seem to recycle those that could be reclaimed. Thinking about it now, the practice adds to the ever increasing rubbish problem Hoi An and Vietnam in general is facing and we probably should have skipped the custom for the benefit of a cleaner environment. However, as we realised later on, some of the women fished some of the candles out of the river and resold them so there is a little recycling…
Visiting the Night Market
Fighting our way through the tourist crowds we crossed the Bridge of Lights to the island of An Hoi. There we went straight to the Night Market, which is located on Nguyen Hoang and cannot be missed thanks to the brightly lit eateries and craft stalls.
Enchanting Lantern Stores
To the right side we discovered a row of enchanting lantern stores. There were hundreds of multi-coloured lamps in the shops, some plain, others with beautiful patterns, like cherry blossoms and lotus. The choice was almost overwhelming and I do not know if I could have been able to make a choice for myself. We were even able to watch some women glue the silk fabric onto the wooden skeletons of the lamps.
Browsing the Stalls at the Night Market
I had set my eye on a straw bag that I had seen in one of the stalls earlier and I had wanted a similar one for a long time. I was happy to see that they were a tiny amount of the price I would have paid had I ordered them online. Eventually I found the smaller size I wanted and even got two, one as a gift for a friend. Happy with my bargain, we browsing through the stalls of the night market. There was a lot of repetitive junk and the stallholders kept saying “no obligation to buy, just have a look” but in the end the moment we stopped to look they kept pushing us to buy something anyway. Jerome wanted a jade dragon, but we quickly realised that a large number of them for sale were plastic or resin, and not even well carved at that, so be careful what you purchase, the same applies to silver jewellery.
Try Some Local Dishes and Treats
Overall the night market was interesting to explore and a great place for buying the odd souvenir and present for loved ones back home, along with some sport haggling a good price is a pleasant way to spend the evening. It is also a great place to try some local dishes or get a sweet treat, Jerome savoured the local style crepes and I got addicted to the fresh fruit juices. You never know you might even be brave and try durian ice cream! If you want to avoid the crowds, I would advise to get there early, just after the night market opens, at 17:00, as later it fills up with the bus loads of tourists from the costal hotel resorts.
Meandering the Back Streets
Beside the night market, we really enjoyed meandering through the back streets of An Hoi. The open doors gave us an insight into local’s homes, the TV’s glimmering, children playing outside in the dark courtyards and neighbouring women chattering on the pavements, was a delight to watch and experience. A barber was still at work, although looking bored without a customer in sight.
The Old Town at Night
The Old Town itself, especially the main drag, is of course a great place to saunter the streets at night too. The shops are open late into the evening and even a few of the ancient buildings, like the Hoi Quan Quang Dong (Cantonese Assembly Hall) are open daily until 21:00, but remember to bring your entrance tickets.
Evenings in Hoi An are a magical time to visit with kids but prepare yourself for large crowds of visitors so keep them in sight, I hope my tips will help you enjoy this magical time of day. Weekday nights are usually less busy and it is advisable to either arrive as early as possible or later in the evening, after 20:00 when some of the tourist buses head back to Da Nang and other tourist resorts.
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